BBC’s Canvas May Need OFT, Ofcom Scrutiny, Ofcom Says

Ofcom has warned the BBC Trust its assessment of the BBC’s Project Canvas proposal may have to be followed by an Office of Fair Trading inquiry, raising the horrible prospect of it being struck down like Kangaroo. The trust in March started an industry consultation, rather than its usual public value test, as the proposed open IPTV standard is considered merely a platform rather than an entire new service. That denied the proposal the usual scrutiny of the test procedure’s public value assessment and its market impact assessment, the latter conducted by Ofcom.

But the regulator’s submission to the trust’s consultation on the project says “there may be a future role for the OFT and/or Ofcom to assess the arrangement under relevant merger or competition law” – effectively suggesting the trust should have given it the opportunity to conduct the market impact assessment, as it did with ill-fated Kangaroo. The trust’s own assessment of Canvas’ market impact will be derived from submissions like Ofcom’s, discussions with stakeholders, consumer research and forecast modelling. Its “emerging” conclusions will be published by June 8, and a final conclusion by July 24.

I asked BBC director general Mark Thompson last month whether he feared wider competition scrutiny for Canvas. He said: